It seems strange now, but as Bristol Radical Film Festival co-organiser Liz Mizon explains, the event was originally conceived back in 2011 as a way to ensure that political documentary making didn’t die out.
“The guys who founded it were staff or students at UWE who saw a lack of radical – both political and aesthetic – films at the time,” she says. Times have certainly changed, with cinema rushing to fill the gap vacated by TV. Now, an acclaimed documentary such as The Great Social Housing Swindle can have a proper theatre run, rather than be buried at 11pm on Channel 4 for one night only, and BRFF seems part of a larger trend, with similar festivals being set up in both Liverpool and Norwich.
This year’s event is the first to take place at the Trinity Centre. The programme is chosen by the volunteers around a loose theme – 2017 being the centenary of the Russian Revolution – though there is plenty more to tickle your radical taste buds: other highlights include Girl Power, ‘the first women’s graffiti and street art documentary’ and Brexitania, an exploration the complex issues behind the Leave vote.
A common complaint about a festival like this is that it fails to break out of the Bristol activist ghetto. Liz considers this: “I’m not sure there is a way round that. Certainly, there is a place for discussion and changing each other’s minds, but equally, why not just inspire people who are already on a similar wavelength?”
One specific aim, though, is to encourage the city’s many budding auteurs. “We get a lot of student filmmakers coming up to us and talking about what they have seen”, Liz points out. “And, as a lot of things we screen been made on a shoestring budget, hopefully it does make filmmaking feel a bit more accessible!”